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Concurrent Budget Resolution on the Budget, Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. THUNE. If I might, I thank the distinguished ranking member of the Budget Committee for yielding, and I will pose a question to the Senator, if I might.

I heard Senator Sessions say earlier and put up a chart which suggested that the term ``balanced'' had been used 191 times by the other side in the course of this debate. Is that correct?

Mr. SESSIONS. That is correct. We probably missed a few.

Mr. THUNE. That may be an incomplete count, but nevertheless the Senator and his staff counted 191 times where the word ``balanced'' has been used. As the Senator from Alabama very fittingly pointed out, there is nothing balanced about this budget. In fact, this budget doesn't balance in 10 years; it doesn't ever balance.

The other thing I would suggest to my colleague from Alabama is that in the course of the debate, it has become clear to me--and I think clear to anybody who has been observing this--that the so-called balanced approach they advocate is anything but balanced.

We have a $1.5 trillion tax increase. We have a spending increase that is at 62 percent over the course of the next decade--a net spending increase notwithstanding their assertions that somehow this is a reduction in spending. The whole idea that this is ``a balanced approach'' strikes me as a big charade. I think that is what this entire budget is. That is why all the editorial pages across the country, including those from newspapers that are not considered the least bit conservative--many of us in the Chamber who are on this side of the aisle expect most of the newspapers around the country and their editorial pages to attack Republicans and Republican budgets--have absolutely eviscerated in their editorial comments the budget that has been put forth by the Senate Democrats. I think it is simply because it is anything but balanced.

When they used the word ``balanced'' 191 times on the floor of the Senate with regard to this debate, if we think about the ``balanced approach'' they talk about--even when we were dealing with the fiscal cliff, they talked about a balanced approach, but there was no balance there. It was all tax increases. There was a $620 billion tax increase. Over the course of the President's first term, we got a $1 trillion tax increase with ObamaCare. If we add those together with some other tax increases that have been added on, we are at $1.7 trillion in new taxes--or new revenues, as they say.

We want balance. Well, we have $1.7 trillion in new revenue already, and then they are talking about another $1.5 trillion in taxes. Really? Where is the balance in that? This is all about raising taxes and growing government at the expense of the economy.

I say to my colleague from Alabama, we are going to vote on an amendment pretty soon by the Senator from New Hampshire, Ms. Ayotte, that raises a point of order against any tax increase that would occur until the unemployment rates gets back down to 5.5 percent, which is what the President and White House said in 2009 would be the unemployment rate by now without the stimulus. It is hard to imagine that after spending $1 trillion that was borrowed from our children and grandchildren to ``stimulate the economy'' and still having an unemployment rate that hovers around 8 percent, they would be talking about yet more taxes when we know that raising taxes does nothing but hurt the economy and hurt job growth.

If the real goal is to get deficits and debt under control--my colleague from Alabama shares my view--the best way to do that is to expand the economy. We need to have people working again, investing, and paying taxes. We don't need less revenue, we need more revenue in order to have a growing economy. That is what we should have before us. This budget does the opposite. It adds $7.3 trillion to the Federal debt and raises $1.5 trillion in new taxes on top of the $1.7 trillion tax increases we have already seen in the last 4 years under this administration. This is a completely wrongheaded approach, which is why it is not just the Republicans in this Chamber who are saying that, it is the so-called independent folks out there in the media who say it on their editorial pages. They are calling it what it is. It is a charade.

There is nothing about this exercise we are going through here on the Senate floor this week that will solve the Nation's fiscal problems or get people back to work or get this economy growing again. I say that in terms of a budget. The budget is supposed to confront harsh realities, and it is supposed to set a vision and blueprint and pathway for the future.

If this is their pathway--ignoring the problems and sweeping them under the carpet--as far as the long-term structural challenges we face with regard to Social Security and Medicare, this does nothing to protect those programs. It does nothing. There is no reform in here. There is not anything in here that prolongs the programs that people rely on today that are headed toward bankruptcy. At the end of this decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, that is going to represent 91 percent of all Federal spending. Think about that--91 percent of all Federal spending will be composed of mandatory programs. Only 9 percent of the entire budget will be left over to pay interest on the debt, national security, and all the other discretionary things the government funds.

This budget does nothing to address the long-term structural fiscal imbalances that face this country. Yet it relies on the same old tried-and-failed policy: Well, let's just raise taxes a little more. It will be a tax increase on the rich because Lord knows we are the defenders of the middle class.

Let me tell the middle class in this country, they cannot raise taxes enough on the rich to do all the things they want to do in the form of growing government and increasing spending. This is going to hit and penetrate middle-income Americans. Middle-class families are going to get hit with higher taxes because the appetite to spend on the other side is endless. It just goes on and on and on, and we are not doing anything to address that.

We have a spending problem in this country, not a revenue problem or a tax problem. It isn't that we spend too little or that we tax too little, it is that we spend too much, and that is what we need to address in this budget. That is where this budget falls terribly short.

It is an incredible disappointment to finally--after 4 years--have a budget on the floor of the Senate that is inadequate to the future of America and relies on the same old failed policy that raises taxes and hurts economic growth and hurts job creation.

We are still hovering at 8 percent unemployment. In the last 4 years, we have added $6 trillion to the Federal debt. We have a sluggish economy that is growing at 1.5 to 2 percent, and for the 4-year average it has been less than 4 percent. The 60-year historical average is 3.3 percent economic growth. If we got back to the normal economic growth pattern average over the last 60 years, these fiscal challenges we face would be so much smaller by comparison simply because a growing economy helps address all of these problems we are talking about today. Unfortunately, the budget we have before us doesn't focus on growing the economy; rather, it focuses on growing the government, and that is where it falls so miserably short.

It is really unfortunate that is the vote we are going to have today. Many of the amendments we are going to vote on are an attempt to improve it. I hope that the Ayotte amendment will pass and that the tax increases included in this budget--that the point of order will be approved and will deny any tax increase until we get the unemployment rate back down to 5.5 percent. That is where it should be. If we have a growing economy, it would be closer to that number.

I support the good efforts of my colleague from Alabama. He has been here on the floor for many, many hours over the last couple of days doing yeoman's work by pointing out the shortcomings in this budget that we are considering before the Senate. The Senator from Alabama has laid out a very different vision for how we can solve these problems.

It is really ironic. I am sure this is-- The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The minority time has expired.

Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I yield back our time so our colleagues have an opportunity to use the term ``balanced'' a few more times before this debate concludes.

I yield the floor.


Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I appreciate the effort being made by the Senator from Virginia. He is moving in the right direction. We do need to get rid of this once and for all. I would be happy to accept his amendment by voice if he would be willing to do that. But I think it is important to have a vote on eliminating the death tax.

The death tax is a punitive tax. It hits farmers and ranchers squarely in the face at a time when they are trying to pass on their farm or ranch operation to the next generation of Americans.

By the way, the amendment I will offer is a deficit-neutral reserve fund; it would be offset. The point the Senator from Virginia made about it not being offset is not accurate.

The way we would approach this, it would have to be offset, but it is time that we put a stake in the heart of the death tax and end it once and for all.


Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, this amendment will create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to completely--completely--eliminate the Federal estate tax burden that is facing America's family farmers and small businesses. There are lots of reasons to support elimination of this destructive and inefficient tax, but for me the issue comes down to being able to tell the farmers and ranchers I represent that I am doing everything I can to make sure they can pass on their family farm to the next generation without a double tax imposed from Washington, DC.

Behind me is a chart. This is data selected from the latest Agriculture Department report on farmland values. Farmers in the States represented on this chart truly are land rich and cash poor. These farmers literally have to sell off land or spend large sums in financial planning solely because of the estate tax--all of that to bring in less than one-half of 1 percent of all Federal revenue.

Next year the estate tax will generate $15 billion--that is all--relative to all the harm that it causes to farms, ranches, and small businesses in this country. It is time to end this tax. It is time to put a stake through the heart of this tax. I ask my colleagues to support the repeal with this amendment.


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